Campaigners are calling for upskirting to be made a specific criminal offence

Upskirting is currently not an illegal offence [Photo: Getty]
Upskirting is currently not an illegal offence [Photo: Getty]

Campaigners are calling for ‘upskirting’ to be criminalised.

It follows news that children as young as 10 have found themselves victims of the act, which sees people covertly taking photographs under people’s clothes without their consent.

At the moment there is no law banning upskirting, which means victims instead have to pursue claims of voyeurism or indecency.

But campaigners, including victims, politicians and equality groups, have called for urgent changes to ensure it is criminalised alongside other sexual offences.

They say the situation is similar to that of image-based sexual abuse – often referred to as revenge porn – which was in a similar legal grey area until a law was passed in April 2015 following a national campaign.

Figures released under freedom of information (FOI) laws requested by the Press Association, highlight some of the issues currently facing police in dealing with reports from victims.

Just 15 of 44 police forces in England and Wales recorded allegations of upskirting in the past two years.

A further 14 said there were no such records on their system, and 15 forces either refused or failed to respond.

Of the 78 incidents reported, only 11 resulted in suspects being charged using existing laws on voyeurism, indecency and public order.

Campaigners believe the true figure is likely to be much higher, given the difficulties with police being able to log and investigate in many cases.

There was insufficient evidence to prosecute in several cases, including one involving a 10-year-old girl in 2015, according to Avon and Somerset Police.

Clare McGlynn, professor of law at Durham University and also an expert on sexual violence, said: “The Government’s continuing failure to provide an effective criminal law against upskirting breaches women’s human rights.

“We are entitled to protection from degrading and abusive treatment, whether offline or online – and we are entitled to have our privacy in public respected.

“We are also entitled to a law that is fit for purpose, a law that treats this abuse as a form of sexual offence and that provides anonymity to all complainants. Only then will victims feel more willing to come forward and report to the police and support prosecutions.”

Conservative MP Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Select Committee, believes it is “concerning” that police might feel they do not have adequate powers to tackle the “horrific crime”.

“Sometimes the law isn’t straightforward in its application and new laws can help,” she said. “In the case of revenge pornography there are now more than 500 cases prosecuted a year.”

Sarah Green, of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said the figures showed police were “clearly struggling to recognise upskirting distinctly”.

It’s not the first time there have been calls to criminalise the act of upskirting. Last year, having found herself a victim of the practice at a festival digital writer Gina Martin called for the law to be amended so that taking up-skirt photos is considered a sexual offence.

“I’m currently drafting a letter to MPs that have expressed interest in women’s issues in the past,” says Martin.

“I’m desperate to get MPs to support me and to push for the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to be amended to specifically list upskirting as a sexual offence.”

Following Gina Martin’s fight, last September shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon called for upskirting to be made a specific sexual offence in the House of Commons on 5 September.

Let’s hope the latest calls might actually lead to action.

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